Noggin News

May 10, 2016 in Food and the Brain, Foodland, Health, Health Claims by Joyce Bunderson

If you’re trying to keep your brain healthy for as long as possible, you won’t want to miss the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s May 2016 Nutrition Acton Heathletter (NAH). The lead story in the May issue, Brain Gain; News for Your Noggin had some concise ideas for those of us who would like to protect our neurons.

Even though the percentage affected by dementia is dropping, the population is aging; so the goal is to try to push the risk further back toward the end of life, thus reducing the burden of the disease. The article explains the difference in the main types of dementia (Alzheimers and Vascular Dementia—loss of blood to the brain), but the results are the same; a shrinking brain, slowing brain metabolism and cognitive decline.

Last year I reported on a new study in Adding MIND to the Mix. Part of the recommendations was to consider adding the MIND eating-style to the Mediterranean eating-style. The MIND eating style combines the Mediterranean and Dash diets and features controlling for sodium and decreasing high blood pressure; and, losing (or not gaining) excess weight. The NAH article reiterates the benefits found and published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. They found improved executive function, faster processing speed, and improvements in some aspects of learning and memory in the group that got the weight-loss DASH diet and aerobic exercise. The NAH article encourages getting high blood pressure and high cholesterol into the normal range.

Ditto the hypertension issue with the importance of reducing high blood sugar. The NAH article reminds the reader of a New England Journal of Medicine article that made a point “even people with blood sugar levels that are higher than normal – but not high enough to reach the diabetes range – are at risk.” Be careful with the simple, processed carbs and sugar.

The next issue that the NAH article discusses is research that has found that using our brains, actually delays symptoms. It doesn’t change the brain, but active minds tend to delay the onset of symptoms.

The bottom-line in the NAH article, as related to brain foods, is that it’s really difficult to actually prove that certain foods or a certain eating-style improves cognition. But they aren’t ready to say that the diet doesn’t matter either. So let’s continue to eat healthily, based upon the sheer logic of it – what affects our bodies, affects our brains.

The NAH reports on a Finnish study that threw everything at dementia (diet, aerobic exercise and mental exercise); in essence, their findings were that “prevention is key.”

The big surprise of the article was learning how intimately involved hearing is with cognitive loss. They report on a study, in which the researchers said that, “hearing loss may be an independent hit on the brain.” One idea is that poor hearing is using lots of brain real estate trying to process degraded signals and it comes at the expense of memory and thinking abilities. Ouch!

I realize that I’m not alone in wanting to protect my brain. Much of what is emerging in the study of dementia prevention is the same as for having a healthy body. So it seems that if we’re doing our best to have a healthy body, we’ll increase our chances for a healthy brain inside our noggin and that is definitely a desirable outcome.